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We seem to get a lot of questions that seem to boil down to this: "My professor is bad. Right?" Two recent examples:

Expecting students to use a code base that is known to be buggy?

How to deal with dramatic drop in grade due to strict attendance policy

Do we want to allow these? If not, then what is the appropriate reason for closing? Would it be a good idea to add a new, specialized reason for closing questions such as these?

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  • Usually either "unclear what you're asking" or " strongly depends on individual factors" works. – ff524 Mar 28 '16 at 23:43
  • @ff524: In both of these examples, it seems to me that it's clear what they're asking -- they're asking whether their professor is bad. – user1482 Mar 29 '16 at 0:05
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I think that it is a very case-by-case basis. Generally asking for commiseration is probably not interesting: we close a lot "My advisor is bad, right?" questions too.

On the other hand, a lot of these questions end up illuminating interesting aspects of pedagogy, giving a professor's eye view of a situation, or offering an interesting comparison of different approaches.

For example, the first question you list, on buggy code bases, I liked enough to answer myself, and think it has brought a number of other interesting answers too. I'm surprised that it was closed and have voted to reopen. Likewise, I see no issue with the second linked question that would make me feel it should be closed.

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    We also close non-questions from the other side: "Kids these days, amirite?" – ff524 Mar 29 '16 at 0:52
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I disagree slightly with @jakebeal's answer. These questions, as posed, are almost always written as a rant, and rants are not welcome here.

That said, with edits, these questions should stay. I am a big proponent of requiring the edit for the question to stay open, though... the unassuming reader would come to the conclusion that these questions are acceptable here, whereas we only really accept them because there's a hidden nugget of pedagogy to be explored.

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  • I've no objection to editing for clarity: in fact, I often think that we should be more vigorous about this than we sometimes are, particularly when the OP seems to have abandoned a question. – jakebeal Mar 29 '16 at 0:56
  • @jakebeal - Well then, I guess we agree :) More seriously, I very much agree with your edit... I think we should edit more often than we do. However, given the existing voting and editing patterns on this site, I didn't think this answer would get a lot of upvotes. Guess I'm vindicated there. – eykanal Mar 29 '16 at 13:14
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As eykanal stated, a rant is not allowed, but there can be legitimate questions about ethics/legality. For the buggy code question, interpreting it as "is it ethical for a professor of a course on X to have some issue that makes a lot of the coursework / grades being based on the ability to use/understand Y" is an interesting question that is worth discussion.

On the other hand, the attendance question is mostly a rant. There are related questions that can and should be asked. For example, asking why some professors care about attendance is fine. Also asking about whether it's ethical or against (standard) university polices for a professor to base a certain amount of one's grade on attendance is fine. And even the question of should professors care about and grade student attendance is an interesting pedagogical question.

However, I don't think "How to deal with _____" questions should be allowed since they usually have standard answers. Did the professor break policy? Gather evidence and tell a higher authority. Was no policy broken? Talk to some friends, get some support, and try to do as well as you can given the situation you're in.

I don't know of a clear and concise way to put this distinction.

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